Agent Howard comes to take the candy and and it’s fine, she’s glad to be rid of it. She doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth and she knows that keeping such a strong reminder of Chief Johnson in the office will only make things harder on everyone. At her desk at FID, she filled that all important top drawer with normal things. Pens and pencils, permanent markers, some active case files, an emery board and clear polish.
Still, looking at the sugary remnants of the drawer as Agent Howard takes the last of Chief Johnson away, Sharon decides that her predecessor may have been onto something. Having a secret stash of something just for herself, a little indulgence now and then is not such a terrible idea. Chief Johnson was not the first to do so - detectives have had bottles of booze in their desks for years. Provenza’s desk could probably pass as a bar if things got dire enough.
But while Sharon likes the occasional stick of gum or after dinner mint, while she will drink a glass of white wine after a particularly stressful day, she is not a woman of many vices. She wakes up at the same every morning, weekend or not. She runs along the same path at the park near her condo, her ponytail swinging in the dawn light. She is never late for an oil change, always thorough with her paperwork.
She closes the empty drawer and it makes a hollow sound as it shuts. She’ll think about it, consider all her options. Anyway, all her things are down in FID still waiting to be carted up. She had planned to wait until Provenza sulked his way home but now she has Rusty and she is eager for this day to be over. She goes home.
Brushing her teeth the next morning, she sees in her medicine cabinet a bottle of cherry red nail polish. She’d purchased it to match a dress for a wedding and had not worn it since. Feeling whimsical, she tucks it into the pocket of her dress pants.
There is more to life than clear polish, after all, and a whole drawer to fill.
Seven years is a long time and change isn’t easy. Sharon doesn’t want to undo Chief Johnson and the new rules are not about unraveling her legacy. For all the problems the lawsuit has created, Sharon doesn’t and can’t overlook the fact that Chief Johnson was right all along about Phillip Stroh and questionable ethics aside, if one were to look at conviction statistics alone, then Brenda Leigh Johnson should have a statue erected in her honor in front of the building.
Captain Sharon Raydor only hopes to one day be half the police officer Brenda was. She just hopes to do it while following the rules, is all.
What she needs, really, is someone on her side. Amy Sykes is fine, but Provenza wasn’t wrong when he called her out for brown nosing. Suck ups can be useful and Sharon will use her all right, but it’s not the same as having someone really in her corner.
She thinks Lieutenant Flynn is her best bet because he can be friendly enough when he puts some effort into it, but again, she’s not Chief Johnson and Andy Flynn takes every chance to remind her of that. They all do.
On Friday, the weekend so close she can taste it, she arrives at work and Sanchez is at the door the same time as she is, just in front of her. He holds the door open and she thanks him, but he’s not much of a talker.
They share an elevator and he surprises her and says, “My niece goes to El Camino.”
“Excuse me?” she asks.
“The high school. She’s sixteen,” Sanchez says. “I don’t know if you’ve registered Rusty anywhere but at least he’d know someone.”
“I don’t plan to keep him, “ she says. “But thank you. That’s very thoughtful, Detective.”
It’s not much, but in an uncharted ocean, even the tiniest olive branch is still a sign of dry land.
Her interview goes not so well.
Ten minutes in, the suspect gets lawyered up and Sharon is in her office trying to get her blood pressure to go back down.
Tao comes in with a superficial knock to her open door and then hesitates.
“You okay, Cap?”
“Yes, fine,” she snaps. And then, kinder, “She made it look so easy.”
“I watched it for years and I can’t do it,” he says. “You know what they called her, right?”
“I do,” she says. “Major crimes is no longer designed to function solely on cases closing because one woman had a gift and yet... a confession now and then couldn’t hurt.”
“You’ll find your groove,” he says. “Shakes ups are rough.”
He hands her a file and retreats. It’s not his job to reassure her and it was making them both uncomfortable.
Trying to lure suspects into confessing is never going to be her strength. She could dye her hair blonde and wear floral prints and thank everyone in a lovely, disarming drawl, but facts are facts and the thing that made Chief Johnson so unstable was also the thing that made her great.
Sharon knows she can be good at this job, but what if she’s never great? What if she simply lacks the capacity? She opens the file Tao had left and sees the picture of the boy, the dead boy, his throat open red and wide.
She looks up and sees Flynn through the window and reminds herself that he’s not just a boy, he’s Gordon MacMullan, a person with a life cut too short and a family counting on Major Crimes for justice.
‘Gordie’ his mother had called him.
There’s no sense hiding in her office.
She carries the file out tucked under her arm and studies the murder board, trying to find a fresh angle now that the suspect has clammed up.
“Captain,” Detective Sanchez says. “Buzz is going out to get lunch for the department. You should give him your order.”
Buzz has gotten lunch for the department plenty of times and not included her. Sanchez glances at Tao and so Sharon looks over her shoulder at him. Tao nods once, sagely, like he’s giving his permission.
She’s not too good for a pity lunch on a day like today.
“Thank you, Detective,” Sharon says. “I will.”
As she’s walking away, she hears Tao say to Sanchez, “Shake ups are rough.”
“I remember,” Sanchez says, his voice sounding grave.
Sharon comes home every day to Rusty’s mess spread across her living room. He watches TV and snacks and she’d complain about it, except he’s looking a little rounder in the face and his color is better. His cuts are healing and he doesn’t look quite as trapped.
“Did you find my mother?” he asks.
“Nope,” she says and puts her bags down.
“Yeah, that would require actually looking,” he says.
“Rusty-” she says and then stops herself. She’s done some preliminary searching but there’s not a lot to go on and she just can’t drop everything to focus on this, as much as she’d like too. Maybe she’ll offer Tao a little overtime to stay late one night and help her look.
“Rusty,” she says again. “Sometimes people don’t want to be found. Sometimes people just want to be gone.”
“So you’re giving up?” he asks.
“No,” she says. “But it’s simply not going to happen over night.”
He stands up, brushes the crumbs off his lap and onto the rug, and picks up the key she gave him.
“Where are you going?” she asks.
“Out,” he says.
“Oh, am I your prisoner?” he asks.
“No, but according the state of California, you are my temporary, underage ward,” she says.
“I’m sixteen,” he says. “I left being a kid behind a long time ago and money doesn’t grow on trees.”
“You think I’m just going to let you walk out of here and turn tricks on Sunset Boulevard?” she asks with a little laugh of disbelief. “Sorry kiddo, no luck.”
“You can’t stop me,” he says.
“No, but I can get you picked up and dumped right back into the foster system,” she says. His face twists in rage. “Look, what we have here is an agreement. You can stay with me and I will feed you and give you a warm place to sleep and not hit you and in return, you do not break the law. If we find your mother, we will re-evaluate our situation. If we find you a more suitable foster home, you become their ward and not mine. If you are still here in a couple weeks, then I will enroll you in the local high school and you will spend your days there, are we clear?”
“You’d just dump me back into foster care?” he says. “Just like that?”
She snaps. “Just like that.”
“You’re a bitch,” he says, and goes to his room, slamming the door in case the name calling was not emphatic enough.
“Yeah,” she sighs to the empty room. “I get that a lot.”
She stands up and digs through her purse for her cell phone. She dials and holds it up to her ear, tucking her hair behind her ear.
“Detective?” she says. “No, no, everything is alright. I was just wondering... could you tell me again the name of the high school your niece attends?”
She runs her finger over a sticky spot on her usually clean counter.
“Thank you,” she says. “Thank you so much.”
She thinks about calling Brenda all the time, but she never does.
Sometimes Agent Howard’s phone rings and he says, “Hey, honey,” and she just wants to grab the phone out of his hand and beg for her help but she knows she can’t and she knows she won’t.
Every day is hard but it is getting slowly easier. The dead bodies, the grieving families, the cold killers. She’s used to dealing with cops and internal affairs and this onslaught of life and death is overwhelming. She works on the cases all day and sometimes half the night. She looks for Rusty’s mother during lunch breaks and on weekends, but the trail is cold and she’s only one woman.
Tired and hungry, she allows herself ten minutes to go downstairs and buy a cup of coffee. A big one with cream and sugar.
She sits at one of the round tables and sips at her coffee. She pulls out her phone and looks at her contact list and finds Brenda’s numbers - her house and her cell phone and her office. Fritz had given her all the updated info but she hasn’t used it.
Taylor comes by and sits at her table.
“It wasn’t easy for Chief Johnson when she first started, you know,” he says. “They made fun of her accent, her clothes, her hair.”
“Like boys in a locker room,” she says. “It’s fine. Major Crimes is fine.”
“In a year or two, it’ll be like you’ve been there all along.”
“Oh is that all?” she asks. He grins. “Sometimes I wonder if I should just... retire.”
“It would be a great loss to the force,” he says.
“That’s your promotion talking.”
“No,” he says. “It isn’t.”
“What did she do?” Sharon asks. “To win them over?”
“I don’t know,” he says. “Why don’t you ask her?”
“Maybe,” she says, but she knows she never will.
She can be a hard woman to like. She’s a stickler for rules, introverted, difficult to get to know. She has an ex-husband who doesn’t speak to her, two kids who don’t visit. The person closest to her is a teenage runaway who hates her.
She rides the elevator up and goes back toward her office. It’s pretty deserted but Sykes is at her desk, eating a salad out of a square tupperware.
“Working late?” Sharon asks.
“I’m not requesting overtime,” she says. “I promise.”
“It’s fine,” Sharon says.
“It’s just that I live alone and I figure if I’m going to look at work stuff anyway, I may as well do it where I have more resources,” she says.
“I understand,” she says. “I wish I could stay, too, but I still have a houseguest.”
“That must be a nice change,” Sykes offers and Sharon has to work hard not to laugh in her face.
“Change is almost never nice,” Sharon says and hefts her bag onto her shoulder. “Goodnight.”
She knows that success will come when she stops comparing herself to Brenda. Sharon is Brenda’s successor, not her replacement and that’s a distinction she needs to work out in her mind.
In the lobby, Agent Howard is coming out of an elevator at the same time she is and he offers her what seems to be like a genuine smile.
“Thought this day would never end,” he offers as they head for the door.
“I think that every day,” she admits.
“Hey, you’re doing fine,” he says. She offers him a small smile, but just because people keep saying that does not make it true.
“And how is Chief Johnson settling into her new job?” she asks. She can’t seem to help it.
“Good, I think,” he says. “You haven’t talked to her?”
“No,” Sharon says. “Why would I have?”
“Well, I mean,” Fritz says. “I think she’s curious about how things are going and I told her to give you a call.”
“She hasn’t,” Sharon says. He holds the door open for her and they make their way to the garage.
“I think she doesn’t want to seem obsessive about Major Crimes. She knows it’s in good hands.”
“Yes, we both know how Chief Johnson can appear obsessive about things,” Sharon jokes. Fritz lets out a little laugh.
“You two could be friends now, you know,” he says. “Now that you’re not working together. Brenda could use a friend or two.”
“Come for dinner one night,” he says. “Don’t worry, I’ll cook.”
“We’ll see,” she says. She wants to say yes and knows she should say no. She points. “I’m over there.”
“Think about it,” he says.
“Goodnight, Agent Howard,” she says and tucks her tail as she hurries to her car.
Driving home, she thinks about his words. Brenda could use a friend.
It’s so tempting but Sharon can see the future on this one. It wouldn’t be a real friendship, it would be Sharon asking for help and Chief Johnson obsessing over what she used to have. She makes a bargain with herself. She won’t accept Agent Howard’s invitation and she won’t call Chief Johnson but if her phone rings, if Chief Johnson makes the first move and calls her... she will consider it. She’ll think about it for real.
Sharon could use a friend or two.